Everyone Has Three Golf Swings – the practice swing, the practice tee swing and the first tee swing. How many times have you seen someone take a nice looking practice swing and then address the ball and it looks totally different? Suddenly they look like they have impaired motor skills. This is caused by a change of focus and emotion. With the practice swing the focus is on feeling the swing. When they address the ball their focus changes to hitting the ball and they allow negative thoughts to creep in.
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The worst case of this I have ever dealt with was one of my students early in my career. At some point he had loop or over the top motion that created an outside to in swing plane. He was a single digit handicap at that point. He decided he wanted to improve so he took lessons (before I met him) from a teaching professional that got him to reverse the loop. This created a very pronounced drop to the inside on his downswing which caused him to frequently hit behind the ball. By this time he was struggling to break ninety.
I could get him to take fifteen great practice swings in a row. The moment he addressed the ball he immediately reverted back to the reverse loop because his focus changed to hitting the ball. It blocked out his ability to feel what his body was doing with the club.
Relax your grip until you can feel the weight of the club head and keep it that way!
The objective of the practice swing is to focus on making the swing feel good. This should not change when you address the ball. Focus on making the real swing feel exactly like the practice swing. Distance is taken care of with club selection and direction is taken care of with alignment – they should never be swing thoughts. The only thought you should have is reproducing the good feeling practice swing.
The practice tee swing is usually worse than the practice swing but better than the first tee swing. On the practice tee if you hit a bad shot you just address another ball and hit it – no fear of failure, but you are thinking swing mechanics. Very little pressure or negative emotion (fear of a bad shot).
The first tee is where fear of failure kicks in. If you hit a bad shot there you have to find it and play it. This causes people to try to control what happens to the ball. Rarely does anything good come from this. In golf effort is self-defeating – the harder you try the worse it gets. One reason I am a big fan of whiffle balls is it gives you a chance to work on controlling your focus almost any time in your own yard.
The next time you go to the range to hit balls close your eyes and take practice swings until the swing feels good to you and remember that feeling. When you get ready to hit a ball just remember that feeling and focus totally on reproducing it and nothing else. It will then become much easier to do this on the first tee.
Just remember that if golf was played with dandelions and pine cones we would all score much better than we do.
Feel the swing and pick a very defined target and focus on that rather than where you don’t want the ball to go.